Coping with the Reality that Mom Has Dementia

2019-10-02 | Uncategorized | By Alexa Willis | 0 Comments

You’ve noticed that mom isn’t the same; she is quieter, less engaged in social events and she seems to forget things easily. You chalk it off to her getting older, to the recent move, to the death of your father, to anything but dementia. This is a normal healthy response to change. No one wants their mother to stop being the same person we have always depended on, continuing to be social, talkative and capable. 

Dementia is simply a descriptive term for cognitive changes that are persistent and interfere with function. This may mean trouble problem solving, multi-tasking, or expressing oneself well. It may mean memory loss, confusion, inattentiveness, lack of concentration or impaired judgment. When subtle, these changes are often overlooked by family members and sometimes denied by the individuals themselves. When changes are persistently more noticeable, it is important to get a good diagnostic workup. There are reversible causes for dementia, ones that can be aggressively treated or even cured. With a good diagnosis, you will know what you need to help your loved one in the days and months ahead. 

Sometimes a person will actually tell you that they are afraid of being alone, afraid of driving, afraid of being in a group. Most express fear and confusion by their behaviors. Much like a child ‘acts out’ their emotion, your parent with reduced ability to reason will ‘show’ you by their behavior what they are struggling with. Some are unaware from the beginning that anything is different about them; they may think you have changed. Your parent may accuse you of being more controlling, more suspicious, and resent you for it. The senior wants to regain control of his or her life. This presents some real challenges to you, the caregiver. You must learn how to take charge in matters that are safety related or that interfere with health and wellbeing. Two common mistakes families make are either taking control over everything, which generally is met with resistance, or ignoring problem areas and doing nothing to accommodate the changes. Avoiding taking charge is often an attempt to respect the parent’s right of privacy. However, this reluctance must be overcome to be a good caregiver. 

Thus, starts the journey of caregiving for you. You must be more available, more observant of mom’s safety and wellbeing. You will need to find what resources are available when you cannot be there for her. The best thing you can do is to educate yourself about dementia, to find the resources you need and have the contact information handy when you need it. Explore home care options, contact your local council on aging, and locate funding sources. Hire an elder law attorney to get finances in order, preserve assets and plan for care needs. Above all, include family members in all the planning. Share the care; it eases the burden of having to do everything. Learn to ask for help. Let others enjoy the rewards of caring. At the end of my book, Matters of the Mind…and the Heart, I quote Zig Ziglar. “What you get by achieving your goals (being a competent caregiver) is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” And I ask the reader, “What have you become through the caregiving journey?” I’ve been a caregiver for a great many years. I can attest to its having changed me; I benefited more than those I cared for each and every time. I am a better person for it; you will be too.